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Explosive Violence in September 2023

In September 2023, Action on Armed Violence recorded 3,186 deaths and injuries from 539 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 63% (2,007) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 86% (1,908) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 10% (99) in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 76% (1,527) of civilian casualties, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 19% (380) of these civilian casualties in September 2023. Of the main launch-method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons accounted for 45% (904) of civilian casualties, air-launched weapons were responsible for 22% (448) of civilian casualties, and landmines were responsible for 3% (55) of civilian casualties.

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 32 countries and territories in September 2023. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Ukraine (689 civilian casualties), Sudan (422), Pakistan (233), Syria (140), and Somalia (128).

UKRAINE

In September 2023, there were 230 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Ukraine, 219 of which resulted in 689 civilian casualties, of whom 129 were killed and 560 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 22 children, 91 women, and 157 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 73% of all 950 casualties recorded in Ukraine in September, as there were also 261 reported armed-actor casualties, of whom 87 were killed and 174 injured.

The majority of civilian casualties, 97% (666), occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 38% (261) occurred in urban residential areas, 16% (108) across multiple urban areas, 14% (97) in villages, 11% (74) in police stations, 5% (37) in markets, 4% in transport infrastructure (31) and town centres (28) respectively, 1% in humanitarian infrastructure (8), roads (7), and public buildings (4) respectively, and less than 1% in commercial premises (3), hospitals (2), schools (2), public transport (2), agricultural land (1), and other locations (1) respectively.

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine were Kherson (200 civilian casualties), Donetsk (174), Dnipropetrovsk (89), Poltava (56), Zaporizhzhia (36), Kharkiv (36), Sumy (26), Crimea (24), Odesa (16), Cherkasy (11), Kyiv (11), Mykolaiv (3), Luhansk (3), Chernihiv (2), and Lviv (2). 

All civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons. Specifically, Russian armed forces reportedly caused 87% (602) of civilian casualties, unknown state actors caused 7% (49) of civilian casualties, and the Ukrainian armed forces caused 6% (38). 

The use of ground-launched explosive weapons was the cause of 58% (403) of civilian casualties in Ukraine in September, specifically non-specific shelling (149 civilian casualties), ground-launched missiles (141), artillery shelling (84), combined ground-launched explosive weapons (14), mortars (11), and ground-launched rockets (4). Weapons of unclear launch method caused 17% (118) of civilian casualties, specifically missiles (116 civilian casualties) and rockets (2). Air-launched weapons caused 13% (89) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (79 civilian casualties), and air-dropped bombs (10). Combined explosive weapons caused 9% (62) of civilian casualties. Mines were the cause of 2% (16) of civilian casualties, specifically landmines (7 civilian casualties), anti-vehicle mines (6), and anti-personnel mines (3). IEDs, specifically non-specific IEDs, caused less than 1% (1) of civilian casualties.

The number of incidents and civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Ukraine in September 2023 decreased significantly compared to levels recorded in August, in which 271 incidents caused 915 civilian casualties, of whom 134 were killed and 781 injured. In July, 282 incidents caused 935 civilian casualties (149 killed and 786 injured). 

SUDAN

In September 2023, there were 25 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Sudan, 24 of which caused 422 civilian casualties, 238 of whom were killed and 184 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 13 children, 3 women and one man. One armed actor was killed in Sudan in September.

All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 64% (271) occurred in urban residential areas, 35% (147) in markets, and 1% (4) in transport related infrastructure. 

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Sudan were Khartoum (366 civilian casualties), and South Darfur (56). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 62% (262), were attributed to actors of unknown name and status. 34% (142) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically the Sudanese Armed Forces, and 4% (18) by non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically the Rapid Support Forces.

The use of air-launched weapons, specifically air-strikes, was the cause of 56% (238) of civilian casualties. Ground-launched weapons caused 42% (179) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (107 civilian casualties), artillery shelling (62), combined ground-launched weapons (5), and ground-launched missiles (5). Combined explosive weapons caused 1% (3) of civilian casualties, and weapons of unclear launch method, specifically missiles, caused less than 1% (2) of civilian casualties.

The number of civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Sudan in September 2023 increased compared to levels recorded in August, when 20 incidents caused 266 civilian casualties, 148 of whom were killed and 118 injured. In July, 14 incidents were recorded, which caused 208 civilian casualties (165 killed, 43 injured).

PAKISTAN

In September 2023, there were 20 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Pakistan, 13 of which caused 233 civilian casualties, 66 of whom were killed and 167 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 12 children, 6 women, and 4 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 89% of the total 261 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 28 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 8 of whom were killed and 20 injured.

88% (204) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 72% (168) occurred in places of worship, 7% (16) in urban residential areas, 6% (13) on roads, 2% (4) in villages, and 1% (3) in schools.

The states in which civilian casualties were reported in Pakistan were Balochistan (171 civilian casualties), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (62). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 85% (197), were caused by non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically unknown non-state actors (193 civilian casualties), and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (4). Actors of unknown name and status caused 15% (36) of civilian casualties.

IEDs caused 81% (188) of civilian casualties in Pakistan in September, specifically non-specific IEDs (172 civilian casualties) and roadside bombs (16). Mines, specifically landmines, caused 12% (29) of civilian casualties. The use of ground-launched weapons caused 7% (16) of civilian casualties, specifically mortars (11 civilian casualties), ground-launched rockets (3), and grenades (2).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Pakistan in September 2023 increased considerably compared to August, when 25 incidents caused 41 reported civilian casualties (24 killed, 14 injured). In July, 18 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 232 reported civilian casualties (64 killed, 168 injured).

SYRIA

In September 2023, there were 99 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Syria, 52 of which resulted in 140 civilian casualties, 34 of whom were killed and 106 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 38 children, 15 women, and 29 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 37% of all 379 casualties in Syria in September, as 239 armed actors casualties were also recorded, 115 of whom were killed and 124 injured.

93% (130) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 43% (60) occurred in urban residential areas, 34% (47) in villages, 9% (12) in encampments, 5% (7) across multiple urban locations, and 1% in agricultural lands (2) and commercial premises (2) respectively.

The regions in which civilian casualties were recorded in Syria in September are Deir Ezzor (49 civilian casualties), Aleppo (43), Idlib (26), Hasakah (8), Raqqa (6), Homs (4), Daraa (3), and Hama (1). 

66% (92) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Syria (63 civilian casualties), unknown state actors (15), Turkey (13), and Russia (1). Non-state actors caused 26% (37) of civilian casualties, specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces (29 civilian casualties), Islamic State (3), the Eighth Brigade (2), the Syrian National Army (1), unknown non-state actors (1), and Hayat Tahrir al Sham (1). Actors of unknown name and status caused 8% (11) of civilian casualties. 

The use of ground-launched weapons caused 70% (99) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shelling (68 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (18), mortars (8), ground-launched rockets (3), and RPGs (2). Air-launched weapons caused 23% (32) of civilian casualties, specifically air-strikes (24 civilian casualties), air-dropped bombs (7), and air-dropped grenades (1). IEDs, specifically non-specific IEDs, caused 4% (5) of civilian casualties. Mines, specifically landmines, were the cause of 3% (4) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Syria in September 2023 increased considerably compared to August, when 80 incidents caused 125 reported civilian casualties, 31 of whom were killed and 94 injured. In July, 70 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 127 civilian casualties (28 killed, 99 injured).

SOMALIA

In September 2023, there were 12 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Somalia, eight of which resulted in 128 civilian casualties, 50 of whom were killed and 78 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 4 children, 3 women, and 3 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 37% of all 347 casualties recorded in Somalia in September, as 219 armed actor casualties were also recorded, 210 of whom were killed and 9 injured. 

All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 66% (84) occurred in urban residential areas, 14% (18) in markets, 12% (15) in entertainment venues, 5% (6) in armed bases, and 4% (5) in villages.

The regions in which civilian casualties were recorded in Somalia in September are Hirshabelle (99 civilian casualties), Banaadir (17), and Galmudug (12).

Non-state actors caused 96% (123) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (94 civilian casualties), and Al Shabaab (29). State actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Somalia, caused 4% (5) of civilian casualties.

IEDs caused 96% (123) of civilian casualties, specifically car bombs (105 civilian casualties), and non-specific IEDs (18). The use of air-launched weapons was the cause of 4% (5) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Somalia in September 2023 increased considerably compared to August, when 11 incidents caused 32 reported civilian casualties, 12 of whom were killed and 20 injured. In July, 13 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 49 civilian casualties (45 killed, 4 injured).



AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.